Former Grumman facility in Bethpage may be used to house kids arriving in U.S. illegally

Children detainees sleep in a holding cell at Children detainees sleep in a holding cell at a U.S. Customs and Border Protection processing facility in Brownsville, Texas on June 18, 2014. Photo Credit: AP / Eric Gay

advertisement | advertise on newsday

WASHINGTON -- The federal government said it is assessing whether a former Grumman Corp. facility in Bethpage could be used to house some of the tens of thousands of unaccompanied children who are streaming illegally into the United States across its border with Mexico.

Under consideration is Peregrine Business Park at 15 Grumman Rd. West, which is already slated for a major renovation, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

The General Services Administration, which oversees federal real estate, said no decision has been made and no agreement has been entered into with the building's owner.

"I am demanding a briefing before a final decision is made," said Rep. Steve Israel (D-Huntington), whose district includes the business park.

"It is not a viable solution to simply place unaccompanied children from Central America in temporary shelters," he said.

Brian Nevin, spokesman for County Executive Edward Mangano, said, "The Bethpage site would not be suitable as environmental issues make it hazardous for housing children."

advertisement | advertise on newsday

The business park is one of five facilities in New York -- mostly upstate -- that the federal government has checked out as temporary housing for the children who are undocumented, according to an email sent to New York members of Congress by an HHS official.

Two of the sites -- a hotel resort in Grand Island and a warehouse in Rochester -- have been rejected.

The Obama administration has been scrambling to find new facilities as the surge of children from Central America coming into the United States shows no sign of letting up.

Since October, the Border Patrol has arrested 52,000 unaccompanied immigrant children -- most of them from Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala -- and 39,000 adults with young children for entering the United States illegally.

The influx has overwhelmed the system, Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson told Congress this week.

@Newsday

By law, unaccompanied minors who cross the border illegally must be turned over to the HHS within 72 hours.

But the network of 100 facilities across the country is already over capacity, so the administration opened facilities at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas; Naval Base Ventura County near Oxnard, California; and Fort Sill, Oklahoma.

GSA spokeswoman Mafara Hobson said in a statement that the GSA and Defense Department are seeking potential locations for temporary shelters and medical facilities for use when HHS takes custody of the unaccompanied children.

She said facilities deemed viable will be announced, but only a few of them will be selected.

Peregrine Business Park is owned by Bethpage-based Steel Equities, which last year said it would undertake a $3 million renovation.

advertisement | advertise on newsday

Steel Equities executives did not return calls for comment.In a letter to HHS and GSA, Israel said he's concerned for the children but said the federal government should show them "their dangerous voyage across our border does not pay" by deploying more immigration judges, consular officers and expedited hearings.

You also may be interested in: